Monday, 11 February 2013

Inside Pratham Urban Learning Centers


Pratham’s Urban Learning Centers

Shahnawaz, who aspires to become a doctor when he grows up, does not complain about the 30 minute distance he is supposed to cover every day on foot from his house to reach a Pratham Learning Centre facility. When asked what drives him to the learning centre every day, pat comes the reply that he looks forward to coming to the centre as he is taught in a manner that makes him understand the school curriculum better. More interesting is his reply when asked to pick between his school and the learning centre, as he surprisingly chooses the learning centre over his school in terms of quality of teaching and facilities provided. Shahnawaz, whose father is a tailor and mother a housewife, enjoys the computer training that is imparted at the centre and reading through the vast collection of books available in the library.   Shahnawaz’s friends who also come to the learning centre facility every day are all of the same opinion. They try not to skip a class and acquire as much as possible from every visit of theirs.

The learning facility which these children visit every day is a Pratham Urban Learning Centre in Mukund Pur.   Urban Learning Centres are Pratham Education Foundation’s establishments, which are set-up in low income communities.  The ULCs goal is to help the underprivileged kids to learn and follow their school curriculum better.  The clause for nominal fee exists only to ensure that the Urban Learning Centre or the ULC does not remain dependent on an external source of funding for future continuity.

Profile of the Mukund Pur ULC
  • Location: Mukund Pur Village 
  • Years Operational: 3 years 
  •  Fee: Rs. 100 per month - which is usually reduced by half and, at times, to no fees at all, depending upon the financial condition of the children’s families
  • Total Number of Students: 170 
  • Total Number of Staff: 1 In charge, 4 teacher 
  • Standards Covered: Ist to VIIth 
  • Subjects Taught: Hindi, English, Mathematics, Science and Reading
  • Facilities Provided: 
    • Digital Classroom (children are taught using WebBox on a LCD screen)
    • Computer Training
    • Library
    • Crèche facility for children who cannot be looked after at their homes during the daytime
  • Days Operational: 6 days a week (Monday – Saturday) 
  • Timings: 8:30 am – 5:30 pm

In Delhi, Pratham has 20 such ULCs.  And pan-India Pratham has 250 ULCs covering 30,000 children.

Learn Out of the Box in Mukund Pur ULC

The Learn Out of the Box intervention is used by 3 teachers to teach Math and Science. These teachers belong to modest financial backgrounds. They are in their early 20’s and still pursuing their graduation. It is commendable how they are managing their own and someone else’s education. And all the more praiseworthy are the efforts that they have put in to maintain this Centre. Talk to them and you discover how each one of them loves their work and how they have outgrown themselves and honed their teaching skills after becoming a part of this project. 

Profile of a ULC Teacher
  • Name: Sabreen Siddiqui
  • Age:21
  • Education: Pursuing B.A [Final Year]
  • Subject Taught: Science
  • Standards Taught: VIth and VIIth
  • Part of ULC since: 2010
  • Reason for working at ULC: Belonging to a family of seven, Sabreen decided contribute to her family’s income by taking up a job while she was studying.
  • Future Goal: Wants to complete her post graduation in Mass Communication
  • Other Interests: When not working or studying she takes the time out to do some art and craft, which is hardly surprising once you see the decorated walls of the learning centre and gaze at them in complete awe.

Teachers at the ULC
The other young women who teach at the centre have similar family backgrounds and are equally inspiring. Some of them wish to pursue a career in teaching and some of them have plans to pursue Masters upon the completion of their studies, but as of now are content where they are. 

The students belonging to Std VI and VII are taught using the WebBox. When asked what do they like the most in the WebBox, everyone sings in chorus that they like doing the activities, watching videos and solving the practice exercises. They want the content to be available for other subjects as well.

These students mostly belong to low income backgrounds, where there is only one source of income in the family with 4-6 members in one household on an average. However, the tough financial conditions at home have not in any way deterred them from dreaming big.

Profile of a Student
  • Name: Pooja Kumari
  • Gender: Female
  • Age:11 years
  • Standard: VIth
  • School: Enrolled in a government school
  • Family: Her father is a vendor, and her mother is a housewife. She has two elder siblings: a brother who is married and another sister of marriageable age.
  • Future Goal: Wants to be a policewoman as she feels Delhi needs to be safer. And so she wants to bring about the change she wishes for.
  • About the ULC: She particularly loves the experience of learning on a screen and enjoys using the computers Other Interests: In her spare time, Pooja likes reading, drawing and playing video games

But there are some challenges that the ULC also faces:

  • The lack of space in a rented premise impedes the scope of any kind of physical activity for children.  Due to space constraints, children sit on mats and study because it is difficult to put desks for all the children in the small classrooms.
  • The shortage of power supply at times hampers the teaching process.